Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, at DAP PJ Headquaters on Wednesday , October 4, 1995 at 11.30a.m.
The ban on Justice Bao television series is evidence that there is a need for a total shake-up of the Information Ministry as it is not only retrogressive but a negative influence in five important areas of nation-building.
The press today carried prominently the report that the Information Ministry had imposed the “death sentence” on the Justice Bao television series for the Malaysian television stations.
I do not know whether this “death sentence” on Justice Bao is going to get a “dragon-execution”, “tiger-execution” or “dog-execution”!
The ban on the Justice Bao television series is a poor reflection on the Information Ministry in Malaysia in particular and Malaysia in general, for something must be very wrong with a society and nation which could ban Justice Bao television series.
There is a no need for anyone to seek justice for Justice Bao, who symbolises absolute uprightness and integrity, uncompromising war against corruption and abuses of power in high places.
But there is an urgent need to seek justice for Malaysia to undo the grave damage done to her image, self-esteem and soul in banning a television series like Justice Bao.
The reasons which had been given by the Information Ministry Secretary-General, Datuk Zawawi Mahmud for the ban on Justice Pao television series are most weak self-contradictory and wishy-washy.
He said that the ban on Justice Bao series was in line with the ban foreign-made costume dramas in line with guide-lines under the Broadcasting Act 1988 where TV stations are not allowed to air such shows.
Such a reason is irrational and illogical, but worse untrue.
This is because foreign-made costume shows had been regular fare over the local television channels, whether Chinese, English, Indian or Middle East.
Chinese costume television series which had been telecast over the local television stations include Genghiz Khan (TV 3 -23.4.94-21.5.94) , Por Chee Lam (TV 3 -28.5.94-7.7.94); Chin Woo Five Tigers( TV 2 -9.11.94-13.12.94), and Chinese costumed films which had been telecast over local stations include “The Last Emperor”, “Empress Dowager”, “Terracotta Warrior”, “Princess Fragrance”, “Swordman 2” etc.
It is not only Chinese costume dramas which had been telecast by local television stations, but also Western, Indian, Japanese, Egyptian and Middle East costumed dramas as well, such as Robin of Sherwood series, Oshin (Japanese) series, Spartacus, Hercules, Ben Hur, The Three Musketeers, Shogun or Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves.
All Shakespeare’s plays, which had repeatedly been telecast over the local stations for students, are costume dramas, whether Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, King Lear or The Taming of the Shrew.
What is most shocking is that the Information Ministry Secretary-General, Datuk Zawawi Mahmuddin, when asked about these costume dramas which had been telecast, by local television sta¬tions in the past, pretended ignorance and sought refuge in the statement which probably qualify to be The Most Outrageous State¬ment of the Year: “The reason one or two costume programmes we’re allowed was probably due to human error”.
He even said that Malaysians should be forward-look¬ing, and not to look for the lessons of history from costume dramas, or the country- would be going against, the Vision 2020.’
The last time a public servant had acted so irration¬ally, unreasonably and outrageously was during the ‘Subang Inter¬national Airport radar station fire in August last year the third Subang Airport fire in two years and which crippled the Subang International Airport.
At that time, the then Director-General of Civil Aviation, Datuk Zaludin Sulong, not only did not. apologise for the attempted ‘cover-up’ of the fire, but went on a “war-path1” against the press and even walked out from the press conference conducted by the Transport Minister- Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik.
When are Ministers and top civil servants going to learn that in an age of information technology revolution, they cannot take Malaysians as “simpletons” who would be satisfied with all sorts of nonsensical reasons and explanations?
The ban on Justice Bao television series is evidence that there is a need for a total shake-up of the Information Ministry as it is not only retrogressive but a negative influence in five important areas of nation-building in Malaysia.
*1. Failure to give full recognition to the multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious characteristics of Malaysia
Refusal to accord full recognition to the fact that Malaysia is a plural society of diverse races, languages, cultures and religions which form a rich Malaysian tapestry from which Malaysia draws its greatest strength.
The Information Ministry is still mired in the old mind-set which is based on a “One Language, One Culture” mentality and is suspicious and distrustful of the diversity of the Malaysian plural society.
Last month, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed admitted at a dialogue with the Malaysian Students Executive Council of the United Kingdom that “he was young, and his thoughts were that of an inexperienced politician” when in his early years in politics, he was merely fighting for the cause of the Malays per se.
Mahathir also said that while a citizen of a nation may associate himself with the country, he would not be readily prepared to give up his culture, religion and language.
It is clear that the Information Ministry has not been able to catch up and keep abreast, with the Prime Minister’s thinking on Malaysia as a multi¬racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural and muIt1-religious nation.
The Education Ministry, under the Education Minis¬ter, Datuk Najib Tun Razak, is definitely being more open and liberal than the Information Minis¬try under Datuk Mohamed. Rahmat.
2. Failure to promote the Vision 2020 concept of Bangsa Malaysia
The ban on Justice Bao series is a repudiation of the Bangsa Malaysia concept as promoted by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in Vision 2020 as well as the “We Are One Family” principle as advocated by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim during the recent general election.
It is proof that although there had been some “minor liberalisation” in certain nation-building measures especially in areas of language, education and culture, Malaysia is still a long way from “Full Liberalisation”.
Surely, Bangsa Malaysia or “We Are One Family” does not merely mean UMNO leaders writing Chinese calligraphy before a general election , but all Malaysians accepting and respecting each other’s cultures and heritages as the sources for the creation of a Malaysian identity.
Otherwise, why should Anwar promote the Islam-Confucianism dialogue or even the commemoration of Jose Rizal as an important element of the Asian Renaissance?
3. A denigration and repudiation of history.
The Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat should take his stand clear whether it is official Information Ministry policy that it does not want Malaysians to learn from the lessons of history in the search of Vision 2020 and Bangsa Malaysia.
I leave it to the Cabinet to consider whether a person who could make such a shocking statement showing that he has no understanding of history whatsoever is fit to hold such a high office as Secretary-General of the Information Ministry.
4. A lack of commitment to declare war on corruption and abuses of power in high political places
The values imparted by the Justice Bao series is not just relevant to a particular episode in Chinese history, but of universal relevance and application. I cannot think of a film or televi¬sion series which could come near it in extolling the virtues of absolute uprightness and integrity in the uncompromising battle against corruption and abuses of power in high political places – and 1 challenge Zawawi or Mohamad Rahmat to prove me wrong;
If the Malaysian government is serious in wanting to create a culture which regards corruption and abuses of power in high political places as anath¬ema, then the- Justice Bao series should be intro¬duced to Malaysians ‘• of all races,
To ban Justice Bao series, therefore, is tanta¬mount to a fear by certain quarters of those in authority at these values the uncompromising war against corruption and abuses of power by those in high political places.
5. Repudiation of the Values of Upright Judges and Honest. Officials
At a time -when the country is faced with a -second crisis of confidence in the independence of the judiciary, the banning of Justice Bao which symbo¬lises judicial uprightness and independence calls for a full explanation from the Information Minis¬try.
The banning of the Justice Bao -series is completely indefensible as there is not a single redeeming reason to justify the ban.
Call on Cabinet to reverse the Information Ministry ban on Justice Bao series
The Cabinet should reverse the Information Ministry’s retrogressive decision as well as use the occasion to conduct ‘a thoroughly-going overhaul of the Information .Ministry – from the very top to the bottom – to ensure that it is an active agent for Vision 2020 and the concept of a Ranges-Malaysia’ and not a negative and even counter influence.
The time has come for a new Information Minister as well as a new Information Ministry Secretary-General, whose mind¬set are not stuck in the 1970s but who could reach out into the 21st century.
If the Information Ministry ban on the Justice Bao series is not reversed, then DAP MPs will highlight it as one of the important issues in the forthcoming 39-day meeting of Parlia¬ment, beginning on October 16.